When someone decides to become a US citizen, that person assumes a permanent commitment to the United States, its Constitution, and its people. Keep reading to discover how to obtain US citizenship.
US Naturalization vs. US Citizenship Acquisition – Is There a Difference?
Becoming a US citizen is a crucial decision in any immigrant’s life. Before understanding how to get US citizenship, it is fundamental to understand the difference between US naturalization and acquisition of US citizenship.
The term “naturalization” refers to the process by which a foreign-born individual is granted US citizenship after meeting the eligibility criteria required by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The acquisition of citizenship is a process by which someone obtains US citizenship through his or her parents at birth or after birth, but before the age of 18. If one or both of the applicant’s parents are US citizens, the applicant is entitled to receive US citizenship.
If the applicant was neither born in the United States nor born to US citizens, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires an application for naturalization.
US Naturalization – Understanding the Requirements
There are two different set of requirements for US naturalization – one for individuals who have lived for at least five years as permanent residents in the United States and one for individuals who are married to US citizens.
If the applicant’s petition is based on his or her lawful permanent status in the United States for at least five years, USCIS requires applicants to:
- Be at least 18 years old at the time of the application
- Provide evidence of lawful permanent residence in the United States for at least five years
- Demonstrate continuous residence in the United States for at least five years immediately before the date of application
- Provide evidence of physical presence in the United States for at least 30 months out of the five years immediately before the date of application
- Provide evidence that they have lived for at least three months in a state or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence
- Provide evidence of being a person of good moral for at least five years immediately before the date of application
- Demonstrate real commitment to the principles and ideals of the US Constitution
- Have English proficiency
- Demonstrate knowledge of the essential facts of the history, principles, and form of government of the United States
- Take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States
If the applicant’s petition is based on his or her marriage to a US citizen, USCIS has different requirements in terms of period of lawful permanent residence, continuous residence, and physical presence.
Additionally, the applicant must have been living in a marital union with a US citizen spouse during the three years immediately before the date of application and during the application’s processing period.
In both cases, certain applicants do not need to go through English proficiency tests for naturalization because of their age and time as lawful permanent residents. Consult with an experienced immigration attorney to handle the complexities involved in the process.